Gawker sex tape post left Hulk Hogan ‘naked and exposed’, lawyer argues

Lawyer for Hulk Hogan says in opening statement of $100m lawsuit that Gawker sought to profit by posting sex tape, but site says it was acting in public interest

Gawker sought to profit from the publication of a Hulk Hogan sex tape, according to the former wrestling stars attorney who opened a lawsuit against the news website on Monday by declaring the video had left his client naked and exposed.

An attorney for Gawker, which could be forced into bankruptcy if made to pay out the $100m suit, countered that the news website did not profit from the publication, which was intended as a revelatory piece of public interest journalism.

Hogan, whose real name is Terry Bollea, was scheduled to be the first witness on Monday afternoon in the St Petersburg, Florida, courtroom.

Gawkers October 2012 video and text post claimed that the video showed Hogan having sex with Heather Clem, who was married to Hogans best friend at the time, DJ Bubba The Love Sponge Clem.

There are only three people who know for sure how Bollea ended up in that bed with his best friends wife, Berry said in his opening statement.

He suggested that Gawker was operating in the public interest by releasing an edited version of the sex tape, posted by former Gawker editor AJ Daulerio.

Mr Daulerio knew that celebrity sex tapes had become a cultural phenomenon by 2012, Berry said, before explaining that the public has been left wondering if sex tapes are a publicity stunt.

Hogans attorney for the opening statements, Shane Vogt, emphasized that Gawker made a conscious decision to release the video as part of an effort to support its brand, increase page views and get money from advertisers, while Hogan suffered.

For six months, this man [Hogan] stood there, naked and exposed, said Vogt.

MikeyZEROE (@MikeyZEROE) March 7, 2016

It looks like nWo Hulk Hogan showed up for court today. #HulkvsGawk

Vogt said Gawker loves stories like this because advertisers will shower them with dollars, and asserted that the post is viral marketing.

The reason they kept it up: power and profit, said Vogt. They wanted to inflict harm and they wanted to make money.

This is why, Vogt said, Hogans legal team is seeking a reasonable fee to be paid for each of the people who watched the video.

Gawkers attorney, Michael Berry, countered that the website did not profit from the publication because it was labeled as NSFW, which denotes content not safe for work, or content that should not be opened on a work computer.

Gawker did not make any money directly from this post, Berry said.

Instead, Berry said, Gawker posted the video to maintain the sites commitment to cutting through spin and publicists to present the unvarnished truth about celebrities.

Berry said that Hogan, once regarded as Americas hero, had spoken about deeply personal issues in the media before, including providing details of his sex life, in interviews and in his two autobiographies: My Life Outside the Ring and Hollywood Hulk Hogan, which Berry held up copies of for the court.

The case has already been brought before a federal court, which ruled that Gawker was protected by the first amendment. This case is going through a local, civil court and is expected to last three weeks before a six-person jury makes its decision.

At 5.03am local time on Monday, Hogan tweeted: All is well.

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